Tomb Raider: Anniversary

So I started playing Tomb Raider Anniversary and at first glance it appears to be a copy paste job of Legend.  I’ve only played through the first part of the first level so far but I’ve noticed a couple of subtle differences.  The game seems a little less cartoony, Lara doesn’t look quite as fake.  The resolution of the game is also a little better (although I manually set it higher, I think I tried with Legened but wasn’t able to).  The graphics are as pretty as they were in Legend (maybe a little better).

The first bad thing I’ve noticed though is that the camera seems a little jumpy, like it’s getting stuck.  I didn’t have any problems like this with Legend, although in Anniversary you can pan the camera all the way around Lara, whereas in Legend she turned with it.  They must’ve had to do something a little different with the camera to get this behaviour at the cost of it being a little jumpy.

The “leap of faith”s that I mentioned in my previous post are in the game, and I think they will be much worse than in Legend.  I’ve been playing for 20 minutes so far and have already falled to my death onces cause the camera didn’t quite show me the right angle.

The controls are mostly the same, except now to change weapons you use the wheel instead of delete and you no longer have a flashlight.  Lara now has an inventory (for keeping things like medkits and weapons) and I’m wondering if this means you’ll have to collect items and use them later (this is one of the areas that ruied Angel Of Darkness).  One of the items that Lara carries with her is a journal, this can give you “Lara’s Thoughts” I’m guessing this is supposed to be little hints for when you get stuck.  I’ve only checked it once so far, just after the game told me I could in the first level (which acts as a tutorial), but Lara’s thoughts were well… not extremely complex, pretty much what I’d expect Lara to be thinking.  I stood on a plate trying to open a door, one bar moved from the door, but it didn’t open and Lara’s enlighting thought on this topic was “There must be a way to open this door”.

The final difference that I have noticed is that at the end of the part of the level it asked me if I wanted to save (Legend didn’t do this).  When I said yes I then got to make a save file with a name.  Legend avoided this, and I think not having to explicitly save at the end of each level is a bonus and makes the game flow together.

All in all though, I’m not disappointed too much so far.  As long as there isn’t some huge flaw that the game is hiding until the honeymoon is over I think I should be able to get all the way through it… and actually enjoy it!

Or so I thought!!

I wrote the above after finishing the first level, but I was too lazy to actually post it online, so I kept playing.  Not long after that I got to a complex puzzle that involved collecting cogs.  The first cog was so easy to get (you basically tripped over it as soon as you got to the puzzle) that it was almost pointless.  I followed what I thought was the correct path and suddenly I had the second cog without any real worries.  Then I ended up having to backtrack and go back to the first room of the level/puzzle.

Backtracking in a platforming game is always a horrible idea, and rarely works.  It almost ruined Prince Of Persia: The Warrior Within, as you had no idea where you were supposed to go and what part of the timeline you were supposed to be in.

After I placed the two cogs I had in the machine I realised that I was missing the final piece, I looked around and found a path I hadn’t taken yet.  I started down the path to find the cog, but it was quite long and after a while I started thinking that I was going the wrong way.  Tomb Raider is supposed to be a linear game, and the levels should be designed as such.  If it gets to the point where you are considering going back just cause the way you are going doesn’t feel right, then the level is probably designed slightly badly.

I kept pushing on though and suddenly the scenery changed and I was in a huge open area.  I fought some raptors, then some more raptors.  By this point I was pretty sure that I had gone the wrong way and was now at the next level.  Then suddenly more raptors appear, but before I could start fighting them it broke into a quicktime cutscene (Yes they are in Anniversary!) in which a T-Rex appeared.  Luckily the quick time event wasn’t too hard.  When the cutscene ended, I was in an arena.

Next came what was obviously the first boss fight of the game (Legend had 3 or 4).  In the arena was some ammo for a gun I don’t have yet… and a tiny health pack.  I tried shooting the T-Rex, but it pretty much did nothing.  He killed me about a million times before I realised that you had to do a stupid quick-time-like dodge standing in a particular position, at a particular point in time (right before he eats you!).

I tried this several times with no luck.  Luckily at one point he bugged up and just stood on the one spot, so I was able to get some of his health down, but then the bug fixed itself and got eaten.  So, disheartened, I gave up.

When this happens in a game it’s quite bad, and usually I won’t go back, or I will only go back half-assed.

In the end though I went back and tried again.  I watched some youtube videos where the comments were either “This is really easy” or “This is impossible”.  I kept trying again for a while to no avail until it bugged up again.  I then spent about 10 – 15 minutes shooting the T-Rex while he was bugged and couldn’t move until he died.  After that was a quick time event which I almost missed (as I was telling my housemate how dodgy it was having to use a bug to defeat an enemy).  After the quick time event/cutscene I was able to get into the next room which contained the final cog!!

That’s right, you’d probably forgotten the whole point of this was to find some cog.  I then backtracked (for quite a distance) and put the cog into it’s place.  Once the cog was in it’s place it stopped a waterfall (in the very first room of the level and the room where the giant machine for the code was), exposing a door.  The first thing that came to mind was “didn’t I have to stop a waterfall and expose a door in the last Tomb Raider?” the second thing was that I didn’t know I was trying to get behind the waterfall.  In the previous TR it was quite obvious that was the point of the level, but in this one I didn’t “know” that I need to get behind the waterfall, I only “thought” that I had to operate the machine, because it was there.

This brings me to another point, in most games you want everything to be relatively obvious.  The user should be able to work out what to do from all the clues in the game.  If there’s a waterfall and you can see a door behind it, you’ll think you’re supposed to go there, if you can’t see the door though, you’ll just think it’s a waterfall.  This is a good way to really confuse your users, you can put in a puzzle or item that has no use at all, they’ll have no idea what’s going on.  Baldurs Gate had something similar to this, there was a quest which gave you a stupid item like “Bronze Pantaloons” which you were supposed to take to someone to get dry cleaned.  The trick though was that you had to collect three items like this (from seperate games in the series) and once you had done this it unlocked a quest in the third game of the series.  This sort of easter egg is fine, but you have to be careful.  A lot of players might have just been carrying around the item hoping that they would use it for some quest later in the game, or just trash it because they thought it was a joke.

Anyway, back to Tomb Raider.. so I’m going to finish the game (cause I don’t want to leave it unfinished) but it has made me a little disheartened with the franchise.  The next level after all the dinosaur stuff doesn’t seem toooo bad although in  a cutscene Lara pulls her pistols out of the holsters, the camera changes and suddenly they are back in there while still in her hands… seriously! Who carries four pistols!!  Although with that said, who goes into empty crypts, tombs and ancient civilisations wearing only the skimpiest and most revealing clothes in their collection and jumping around shooting things and making bad jokes…. Lara Croft, Tomb Raider.

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